Sri Lanka will maintain equal relations with India and China, Maithripala Sirisena, joint opposition candidate in the coming presidential polls, said on Friday.
Releasing his election manifesto ahead of the January 8 polls — in which he will challenge the incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa — the former Minister said: “I would act to have closer relations with an attitude that would be neither anti-Indian nor dependent.”
In an apparent reference to Tamil Nadu’s role in India’s diplomacy with Sri Lanka, Mr. Sirisena said: “Our Indian policy will take into due consideration the diversity of India.”
Sri Lanka, he said, would maintain cordial relations with India, China, Pakistan and Japan — the principal countries of Asia while improving friendly relations with emerging Asian nations such as Thailand, Indonesia, and Korea without distinction.
The announcement comes at a time when India has been expressing concern over China’s apparently growing military presence in the island nation. Though the Sri Lankan government has said it would not do anything detrimental to the interests of India, the docking of Chinese submarines in Colombo port earlier this year is said to have irked India.
Mr. Sirisena’s manifesto is silent on the question of devolution to the country’s minorities, and on the implementation of the 13th Amendment that speaks of devolving powers to the provinces. There is no mention of a likely political solution to the ethnic question, even as some leaders of the joint opposition had earlier said on different occasions that the “Tamil question” was unlikely to be taken up as a poll issue.
The manifesto speaks of abolishing the executive Presidency in the first 100 days of assuming charge, should Mr. Sirisena win the elections, and ensuring religious freedom.